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Post-acute health care burden after SARS-CoV-2 infection: a retrospective cohort study

McNaughton CD, Austin PC, Sivaswamy A, Fang J, Abdel-Qadir H, Daneman N, Udell JA, Wodchis WP, Mostarac I, Lee DS, Atzema CL. CMAJ. 2022; 194:E1368-76. Epub 2022 Oct 17. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.220728


Background — The post-acute burden of health care use after SARS-CoV-2 infection is unknown. We sought to quantify the post-acute burden of health care use after SARS-CoV-2 infection among community-dwelling adults in Ontario by comparing those with positive and negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results for SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Methods — We conducted a retrospective cohort study involving community dwelling adults in Ontario who had a PCR test between Jan. 1, 2020, and Mar. 31, 2021. Follow-up began 56 days after PCR testing. We matched people 1:1 on a comprehensive propensity score. We compared per-person-year rates for health care encounters at the mean and 99th percentiles, and compared counts using negative binomial models, stratified by sex.

Results — Among 531 702 matched people, mean age was 44 (standard deviation [SD] 17) years and 51% were female. Females who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 had a mean of 1.98 (95% CI 1.63 to 2.29) more health care encounters overall per-person-year than those who had a negative test result, with 0.31 (95% CI 0.05 to 0.56) more home care encounters to 0.81 (95% CI 0.69 to 0.93) more long-term care days. At the 99th percentile per-person-year, females who tested positive had 6.48 more days of hospital admission and 28.37 more home care encounters. Males who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 had 0.66 (95% CI 0.34 to 0.99) more overall health care encounters per-person-year than those who tested negative, with 0.14 (95% CI 0.06 to 0.21) more outpatient encounters and 0.48 (95% CI 0.36 to 0.60) long-term care days, and 0.43 (95% CI –0.67 to –0.21) fewer home care encounters. At the 99th percentile, they had 8.69 more days in hospital per-person-year, with fewer home care (–27.31) and outpatient (–0.87) encounters.

Interpretation — We found significantly higher rates of health care use after a positive SARS-CoV-2 PCR test in an analysis that matched test-positive with test-negative people. Stakeholders can use these findings to prepare for health associated with post-COVID-19 condition (long COVID).

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